Monthly Archives: October 2011

By Gideon Rachman

This time next year, Americans will be voting in the 2012 presidential election. The Republican party’s effort to choose a candidate to take on Barack Obama increasingly resembles speed-dating – with party loyalists giving swift consideration to candidate after candidate, before getting restless and moving onto the next prospect.

Colombia: “killer” state, or “model” state?

Larry Summers believes the latter. And the straight-talking former US Treasury secretary and president of Harvard is not known for his flattery either. “Colombia has gone from being a failed state to becoming a state that is now an international role model,” he said while visiting Bogotá last month. Read more

With foreign intervention in Libya now formally over, after the UN vote yesterday, military strategists and diplomats are trying to make sense of the conflict. Here in Washington, there is a feeling that it was a “close run thing” (as Wellington once said of Waterloo). Military victories often take on the aura of inevitablity, after the event, but US officials are acutely aware how stretched the Nato alliance was by the Libyan war. Read more

Rick Perry

Rick Perry. Getty Images.

Just a few months ago, Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, was the coming man in American presidential politics. When he announced his candidacy for the presidency, he shot into the lead amongst Republican voters – briefly commanding more than 40 per cent support. He looked presidential material – a long record of electoral and economic success in Texas, a strong appeal to the Tea Party and to Christian voters. All that, and good hair too.

But, now, in some polls, Perry is back down at 6 per cent. Others have him at 10. All the polls show the governor trailing not just Mitt Romney, but also Herman Cain, whose sole qualification is that he used to run a pizza firm. Read more

Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the eurozone crisis. In the early hours of the morning, eurozone leaders emerged from their summit in Brussels with a deal designed to stem the sovereign debt crisis. The markets seem pleased but big questions on the details remain. We’ll bring you reactions, news and commentary as we get it throughout the day.

All times are London time. By Tom Burgis on the news desk in London, with contributions from FT correspondents around the world.

18.34: It’s time to wrap up the live blog for today. But keep reading FT.com through the evening for:

18.13: Der Spiegel has a nice tale about whether or not Angela Merkel did in fact apologise to Silvio Berlusconi for appearing to smirk when asked publicly if she still had faith in his leadership.

18.07: Chatham House has just published a paper arguing that international debt bailout systems are ill-equipped to handle any further instability.

“As the problems in the eurozone deepen and threaten to spread globally, action is required to strengthen financial safety nets beyond what was agreed by EU Heads of State on 27 October 2011.”

Read the full report by Stephen Pickford, former managing director at the UK Treasury and former executive director at the IMF.

18.00: An evening update of the day’s developments:

  • At the end of trading in Europe, the FTSE Eurofirst 300 finished 3.69 per cent higher for the day at 1,020. US stocks rose too, with GDP numbers that matched expectations adding to a positive reception for the EU’s moves
  • Despite the ebullience in equities markets, concerns remained over soveriegn debt in the eurozone. Italian government bond yields first sank to 5.7 per cent, before rebounding to 5.9 per cent, near their euro-era highs
  • Questions remain over the details of the eurozone deal, notably over the terms of the new bonds that will replace existing Greek debt as part of the agreed 50 per cent “haircut” (see 13.17), how banks will go about raising new capital and where the cash to fund the various eurozone plans will come from
  • European officials are keen to involve China and other Bric nations in a fund to buy eurozone debt, though here too there are no firm plans yet

 Read more

Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the eurozone crisis as we head into the evening. Europe’s leaders have gathered in Brussels to try to deliver a solution to the sovereign debt crisis. It has been a nervy day in the markets and national capitals – all of which you can read about on our live coverage from earlier on. Tonight we should discover whether Europe’s leaders can overcome their differences and chart a course towards recovery or whether they will once again fail to reach a deal. We’ll bring you news and commentary as we get it.

All times are London time. By Tom Burgis on the news desk in London, with contributions from FT correspondents around the world.

22.38: We’re going to wrap up our live coverage from London now. But fear not, the FT reporters at the summit will not rest until we have an outcome from the evening’s second summit, of all 17 eurozone leaders. See ft.com for all the latest news.

It seems only right to give the final word on today’s developments to Justin Timberlake, whose new film, In Time, has the strap line: “Tomorrow is a luxury you can’t afford.” Over the coming hours we’ll discover whether European leaders – and the markets – share that sentiment.

22.35: A quick recap on what we know so far

  • The 27 EU leaders agreed a statement as per a leaked draft, fleshing out some headline details of how the bank recapitalisation will work
  • Silvio Berlusconi’s letter to his fellow eurozone leaders included a commitment to raise the Italian retirement age to 67
  • Nicolas Sarkozy will call his Chinese counterpart tomorrow in what seems to be part of efforts to win Chinese investment for a fund to buy eurozone debt
  • US markets dealt with all of this pretty calmly, finishing the day in the black

 Read more

Here’s the problem with the Arab League. A ministerial delegation is due in Syria today to convince Bashar al-Assad’s regime to stop killing protestors demanding the president’s ouster, and agree to an Arab reconciliation plan.

Qatar, the exceedingly wealthy autocracy which has emerged as the unlikely champion of the oppressed across the Arab world, is leading the delegation, despite initial grumbles from Damascus. But the six-member mission also includes Egypt, Oman, Algeria and Yemen. Right, Yemen, where the government has been denounced by many of its fellow Arab states for rejecting a Gulf plan to transfer power away from the president, Ali Abdallah Saleh. Read more

Welcome to our continuing coverage of the eurozone crisis. Today’s summit in Brussels could, in years to come, be viewed as a turning point in the eurozone crisis. Or, it could be just one more extended meeting at which policymakers tried – and failed – to agree on a plan big enough to calm the storm in Europe’s sovereign debt markets. We’ll bring you news and commentary until the summit begins.

All times are London time. By Esther Bintliff and David Crouch on the world news desk in London, with contributions from FT correspondents around the world.

17.10: The summit is about to begin and we’re continuing in a fresh post: Eurozone crisis: the evening session.

16.45: A reminder of the timetable for tonight:

  • 17.00 – 18.00 (London time): the leaders of all 27 EU member states meet
  • 18:15 onwards: the summit of eurozone leaders begins

Statements and possibly a press conference are expected when the meetings close, but they will likely continue long into the night.

Stanley Pignal, Brussels correspondents, reports:

“EU leaders have been arriving for the first of tonight’s two meetings, which will involve all 27 member states before the eurozone-only leaders convene afterwards.

 Read more

Is it possible for politicians to be both living in the past and ahead of their time? That is how I feel about the Tory Eurosceptics, who have just given David Cameron a nasty shock, by defying the government in large numbers to demand a referendum on British membership of the European Union. The vote took place about an hour ago, and it looks as if more than 80 Tories – more than one in four of the party’s MPs – have joined the rebellion. Read more

Photo AFP

“Bring out your dead,” intones a raggedy man as he pushes a wheelbarrow through London’s medieval streets. “I’m not dead,” insists a corpse as he is tossed on top of other bodies in the celebrated spoof, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”. There was something of that macabre spirit in Argentina’s elections yesterday. The Perónist dead were repeatedly invoked, and it transpired they were not so dead after all. For one, Cristina Fernández won a second term with a sweeping 54 per cent of the vote – the biggest electoral lead since Juan Domingo Perón, the patron saint of Argentine politics, returned to power in 1973. Read more

People may be forgiven for wondering what European leaders will do this weekend since most decision-making has been postponed. (See 10.25 entry) Photo Reuters

Welcome to our coverage of the eurozone crisis. Compiled by John Aglionby on the world news desk in London, with contributions from correspondents around the world. All times are London time.

This weekend was meant to be the moment European Union leaders came together to end the eurozone debt crisis. But continuing differences between France and Germany, primarily over how to boost the firepower of the €440bn eurozone rescue fund, mean another summit will be required. As one European official said: “We’ve lost the main parachute and we’re on the reserve chute and we’re not sure that will even work.” Read more

Muammer Gaddafi’s end was destined to be bloody. A few months ago, when the rebels were struggling and their western backers were losing patience, he could have saved his skin and that of his children and fled into exile, with the consent of his Libyan opponents and their western backers.

Even the indictment by the International Criminal Court seemed, at least for a while, open for some compromise. Read more

Euro banknotes placed on a map of Greece. Photo: Dado Ruvic, ReutersWelcome to our live coverage of the eurozone crisis, by Esther Bintliff and John Aglionby on the world news desk in London with contributions from correspondents from around the world. All times are London time.

Hopes for the unveiling of a “comprehensive plan” to resolve the eurozone crisis at this weekend’s summit of European leaders have been squashed this afternoon. “No agreements” will be made, officials told the FT, until a second summit, which will probably take place on Wednesday. Read more

From the FT’s Brussels blog:

Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovich, left, and Commission president José Manuel Barroso in March 2010

The European Commission announced today that Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich was no longer welcome in Brussels on Thursday after opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison last week.

Both Yanukovich (who made Brussels his first foreign stop when he became president last year) and Tymoshenko (who attended the pre-summit gathering of centre-right presidents and prime ministers ahead of the March EU summit) have been regular visitors to Europe’s capital as Ukraine tries to finalise an “association agreement” with the EU before the end of the year.

 Read more

Gilad Shalit crossed into Egypt’s Sinai peninsula this morning at the start of a highly emotional day of prisoner exchanges between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas. The 25-year-old soldier captured five years ago by Hamas will be receiving a hero’s welcome in Israel, and Palestinians will celebrate the return of 477 prisoners, the first batch in the 1,000-to-one exchange. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

Recently I met a retired British diplomat who claimed with some pride that he was the man who had invented the phrase, “the management of decline”, to describe the central task of British foreign policy after 1945. “I got criticised,” he said, “but I think it was an accurate description of our task and I think we did it pretty well.”

Every Sunday for the past eight years a group of elderly women – each wearing white and carrying a white gladiolus – has attended mass and then walked through the streets of Havana in silent protest at their husbands being held as political prisoners.

The Cuban government never quite figured out an internationally-acceptable way of handling the “Ladies in White”. So it let their quiet marches continue, even if they were routinely assailed by pro-government mobs who screamed insults in officially-sanctioned “Acts of Repudiation”. Last Friday, the Ladies in White’s leader, Laura Pollán Toledo, a 63-year old Spanish literature teacher, died in a public Cuban hospital of respiratory complications. The following Sunday, the march went on as usual. Read more

One of the nice  things about the Financial Times is that you have really interesting conversations in the corridors. Yesterday I got chatting to James Kynge, our former Beijing bureau chief, who now edits the newsletter, “China Confidential“. James said that he thinks that political atmosphere inside China feels more unstable than for many years. He cited many little pieces of evidence. But the one the appealed to me most was the story of the “Happy Girls” talent show. Read more

The Financial Times’ View from the Top conference this year focuses on “The future of America”, with business leaders, politicians and economists exploring a variety of factors that will shape America including the economy, the influence of China and power.

While there was an appropriate balance of positive and negative outlooks for the future of America, all the speakers called for an end to the political wrangling that threatens to derail the economic recovery. Read more

Last month, gunmen dumped 35 dead bodies on the streets of Veracruz, one of Mexico’s busiest Gulf ports, just a short distance from where the country’s state attorneys were due to hold a convention. Last week, another 32 dead bodies were found stashed in Veracruz houses.

And last weekend, the nearby university town of Xalapa hosted an offshoot of the Hay literary festival – a genteel and ruminative gathering of the kind that Harry Eyres writes about in his weekend FT column “The Slow Lane”. It is also the kind of discrepancy that is becoming increasingly common as Mexico grinds through the fifth year of its “drugs war”. Read more